Did the Ritz-Carlton add a Black tax to its lobby bar to discourage Black people from patronizing the restaurant? That is what Black residents of Charlotte, North Carolina are saying.
A couple of Ritz-Carlton regulars, who happen to be Black, noticed a difference on their receipt during the weekend that the CIAA basketball tournament—an event for historically Black colleges and universities—came to Charlotte.
To every bill, the Ritz-Carlton Lobby Bar added a CIAA service charge, what some are calling a “Black tax.”
When Patrice Wright, a regular at the Ritz-Carlton and other hotel restaurants, saw the extra tariff, her reaction was: “Do they not want us here?”—“Us” meaning Black customers.
The CIAA is a largely Black event. Many Charlotte residents believe the Ritz-Carlton implemented the added service charge for one of two reasons: either the hotel chain does not want Black patrons or its management believes that Black customers do not tip liberally.
However, the Black tax is not the only objectionable behavior from the Ritz-Carlton.
During the CIAA event weekend, the Ritz-Carlton lobby bar staff also put up table tents that stated: each table needed to spend 125 dollars at minimum each hour, and a credit card needed to be held in order to start table service.
Charlotte residents found both changes to the Ritz-Carlton routine overwhelmingly appalling. They felt that the 125 dollar hourly minimum charge suggested that the company did not want patrons to linger, if they were to dine there at all.
Running patrons’ credit cards in advance of a meal was also an unconventional move for the Ritz-Carlton, or for any restaurant that would like its name to be associated with any air of respectability.
The city of Charlotte plays host to a number of large gatherings, including the NASCAR auto-racing event. But no Charlotte residents could remember the Ritz-Carlton implementing the same service charge or hourly minimum charge during the NASCAR weekend, which is mostly attended by whites.
Black patrons felt disrespected by their discriminatory treatment at the Ritz-Carlton. As a result, many Black patrons and others who felt that the Ritz-Carlton stepped out of bounds with its “Black tax” are canceling their reservations at the hotel chain.
Some are linking the Ritz-Carlton’s poor taste to the disrespect that Blacks regularly face across the country.
One white Charlotte resident was especially vocal about her dislike for the hotel chain’s policy. She said: “It’s horrible that the Ritz would charge people more just because they’re African Americans. They want to have a good time like everyone else. If their money is not good at the Ritz, then mine isn’t either.”
Collectively, all Americans have to take a stand to stamp out racism and discrimination in the US.
It’s 2015, and we can no longer afford to buttress establishments like the Ritz-Carlton that believe a “Black tax” is appropriate.
We all have incredible buying power. If we put our money where our morals are, that action will inevitably lead to the change that we all believe in.